We’re delighted to bring you a new series of Life & The Wadhams, featuring the younger members of the family. Not yet met the Wadhams? Read the background on My Weekly’s best-loved family, then come back and enjoy the next generation’s adventures as Mike and Polly Wadham’s elder grandson, Alex Clark settles into a new life with fiancée Natalie in the flat above the antique shop his grandfather used to own. After the arrival of baby William, they finally managed to have their Lockdown wedding. What will 2021 bring?
Brought up in a household that contained three generations of women – his grandma Polly Wadham, his mum Pinky and his sister Jennifer – Alex Clark had thought he knew all there was to know about the female of the species. But never had he come across any of them behaving the way his young wife was behaving now.
“Natalie?” he said softly, not wishing to alarm her lest she fall from her precarious position. “Why are you standing sideways on top of the loo with your head bent over?”
If she could have rolled her eyes upside down, Natalie would have.
“You know I said when we moved in that we needed a full-length mirror. And we still haven’t got round to getting one – so this is the only way I can check how my stomach looks in these jeans.”
“Oh.” Alex knew better than to argue. “And how does it look?”
“Awful!” Natalie’s light leap to the ground belied her tragic conviction that she looked and felt like a baby elephant. “My belly’s like jelly, my thighs are wobbly and none of my clothes fit. I’m going to have get this baby weight shifted somehow, Alex. After all, William is nearly five months now. No more excuses. It’s time for drastic action.”
“And what would that be?” Alex asked reasonably.
“Well, obviously I can’t join a gym at the moment, nor a diet class, and I can’t go swimming.” Natalie wrinkled her forehead. “I might have tried running or cycling, but you’re out at work all day, and I can’t take William with me, and it’s too dark and cold to go out at night. No, it will have to be a diet – a strict one, to get me back to my normal size.”
Alex’s heart sank. He’d seen his mum on a diet once or twice. Weeks of plain pasta, cardboard crackers and cakeless cupboards flashed before his eyes. He’d have to nip this in the bud.
“Natalie, you are the most beautiful woman in the world. You are perfect in every way.” he said now. “I love you just the way you are, and so does William. He doesn’t want a skin-and-bones mummy – he wants you all soft and cuddly and … and … squishy, just like I do.”
Oh-oh! Maybe squishy was a word too far – Natalie couldn’t have looked more outraged than if he’d suggested sending their child out to pick pockets.
“Right! Squishy, is it? Well, you’re not exactly Mr Lean, Keen and Mean yourself, Alex Clarke,” she cried, poking him in the stomach. “So we’ll both go on diets, and set our son a good example of healthy eating,” she added righteously. “It’s the perfect time now that he is going on to solid food.”
Her voice faltered. “I just hope I’m doing the right things with him – your mum says start with baby rice, my mum says rusks, your grandma thinks he should have been eating roast dinners for three months.
“It’s all very difficult,” she finished with a dramatic sigh, just as a shouted gurgle from the bedroom told her that her small son was awake and expecting something to eat, even if his mum was swearing off food for the foreseeable future.
She disappeared, leaving Alex to shower, dress and get ready for work. Was it his imagination, he wondered, as he pulled on his T-shirt, or were his work jeans just a trifle tight?
“That hit the spot!” Alex finished off the last bite of the massive bacon roll provided by his father Jim for tea-break at the garage, and eyed the remaining one in the Tupperware container with longing.
“Go ahead,” his dad said.
Alex needed no further invitation.
“Have to make the most of this,” he mumbled through a massive mouthful. “God knows what I’ll be getting for tea tonight.”
“Natalie not cooking?” Jim asked.
“She’s on a diet,” Alex explained. “And she’s putting me on one as well. I left her writing a shopping list as long as your arm with things on it that I can’t even pronounce, let alone visualise. Pak Choi was one of them, whatever that is … She’s already been online to order some bathroom scales. And she made me take the leftover Christmas chocolate and sweets out of the house. Told me to put them in the bin!”
“What?” Jim was outraged.
“It’s OK – they’re all in the fridge.” Alex gestured to the corner of the small kitchen area they were huddled in. “Just help yourself. But don’t tell Natalie. She’s a bit obsessive at the moment.”
“It’s understandable,” Jim said.
“No, it’s not, Dad,” Alex expostulated. “Natalie’s not fat – not by any standards.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Jim said reasonably. “I meant that she is a bit isolated at the moment, and it is giving her too much time to think about things that are perhaps not all that important.”
Alex thought about it.
“I see what you mean. Ordinarily, though she’d still be on maternity leave, she’d be out and about meeting her friends, and making plans. For now, she just has William, me and her mum.”
“And that can’t be easy for her,” Jim pointed out. “I remember when you were born, your mum was surrounded by other women who’d just had babies. They’d meet up for coffees and go to classes together – baby gym and swimming and things like that. Even when Ruby was born –” he referred to Alex’s surprise little sister, who was just two – “your mum was glad of support from the other mums. Even if most of them were fifteen and twenty years younger,” he finished with a chuckle. “It’s a shame Natalie is being denied all that.”
“Fingers crossed it won’t be for much longer,” Alex said. “Grandma and Grandpa have had their vaccine now, haven’t they?”
“Yes, and so has Jennifer, which is a relief. I have to confess I was a bit worried about her working in a care home and maybe catching it, or bringing it home to your grandparents. But they should all be safe now. No letting down of the guard, though,” he warned. “Not when we’ve come this far safely.
“But I’d cut Natalie some slack, Alex. She needs all your support just now. And anyway,” he jabbed his son playfully in the stomach, “a short diet won’t do you any harm.”
Natalie was sticking strictly to the Lockdown rules. She’d put baby William in his pushchair and was enjoying a refreshing if somewhat cold and solitary walk around the park, planning in her head the clothes she’d buy when she’d miraculously lost a stone in weight, when she was startled by a cry of frustration from behind her on the path.
She turned to see a girl of about her own age, looking disconsolately down at a very similar pushchair to the one William was sleeping soundly on. As she pushed it, it lurched to one side and it was immediately obvious the wheel had come loose.
Restrictions or not, Natalie couldn’t ignore a stranger in distress. She turned back, and keeping a strict two-metre distance, called out to ask the girl if she could help.
“Thanks!” the girl called back. “I don’t think you can – I think there’s a nut or bolt missing from the wheel. It’ll be back there somewhere. I’m not too far from home, thankfully – though I don’t know how I’ll get it fixed for tomorrow.”
“My husband’s a mechanic,” Natalie said. “Give me your name and number and I’ll get him to call you and take a look. We don’t live far either.”
“Oh, that would be great! My name’s Keisha – this little scamp is Kayla.” She gestured at the beautiful baby with corkscrew curls and big brown eyes smiling up from the lopsided buggy. “She’s seven months. How old is your baby?”
“He’s five months, nearly. He’s called William, and I’m Natalie.”
“Nice to meet you, Natalie,” Keisha grinned. “You should join our baby club …”
Mindful of his father’s wise words, Alex got home earlier than usual that evening, determined to cheer and support his wife along in any way he could, even if it meant eating dust. He wondered how Natalie would be after a day on a diet – hunger could do strange things to a person.
But he was greeted by a surprisingly chipper Natalie, eager to tell him about her day, and the new friend she’d made.
“She’s called Keisha, and her partner is Robbie. They’ve got just one kid, like us. But they’ve no family nearby – they only moved here last May for Robbie’s work. He’s a lab technician, and she works in communications, so she can work anywhere.
“And get this – she’s started an online baby club for parents like us that have new babies. It meets every Tuesday and Friday, and does all sorts of activities. Plus, she’s found an instructor to give us post-natal exercises. They first class is tonight so you’ll need to get William off to bed yourself.
“Oh, but before you do, could you nip round to her place and fix her baby buggy? She’s just round the corner – I don’t know how I haven’t bumped into her before. I’ll phone her to meet you in their garden with the buggy so you don’t have to go into the house.
“And while you’re out, can you pick up a couple of cakes from the corner shop?”
Pleased to see his wife back to her normal, happy self, Alex nodded eagerly at all her orders, but that last one made him frown.
“What about the diet?”
Natalie rolled her eyes. “Well, obvs, I’m getting exercise now. And Keisha says we all stay behind on Zoom and have a coffee and a cake and a blether together. You can have one, too,” she finished magnanimously. “We’ll tackle your tum another day!”
Join us next month for more adventures with Life and the Wadhams: The Next Generation.